Monday, 2 May 2022
Saturday, 9 January 2021
I run and I run.
After days inside, sat at the table, watching a screen, opening tabs, closing tabs, crashing the system, rebooting the system, eating toast, wearing cardigan upon cardigan, I run.
It’s the most wonderful journey I’ve ever taken.
I run along the bumpy pavements.
I run across the empty streets.
I run past the evidence of irresponsible dog owners.
I run because all that matters is the run.
It’s not the most beautiful run, but it’s my run.
Legs push me forward. Eyes stream in the battle against the wind. Lungs fill with beautiful, beautiful cold air.
I pass the naked trees, still home to pigeons and squirrels. I pass the playground, deserted and desolate in the current landscape. I pass the pub, curtains drawn and door bolted.
I run and I remember that everything is transitory.
I run and I think about the future when the trees will be awash with resplendent greenery.
I run and I think about the future when the playground will heave with children screaming in excitement.
I run and I think about the future when the soft glow of the pub spills out onto the pavement.
I run and I think. All my best thinking is done when blood is pulsing to my extremities.
My journey continues.
I know where I’m going. Where I always go.
I run to the water.
I run alongside the water and inhale the industrial sea air.
It may not be very far, and it may not take very long, yet, as with all journeys, it is the movement that matters. The propulsion of existence. I exist and I run.
I run the same route. Feet take the same steps. Eyes take in the same sights.
The broken gate, the wonky street sign, the Mr Men mosaic, the alien sticker on the lamppost, the abandoned scooter, the teddy in the window, the wall with the chunk missing.
I see them all. Every time. Every run.
Yet I run to the water and I don’t know what will greet me.
Tide in? Tide out? Choppy? Still? Swans in? Swans out? Oystercatchers? Sandpipers? Fishing? Beachcombers? Sea glass? Sun? Cloud?
The transient nature of the sea keeps calling me back.
I run to it.
I run away from it.
But I know it won’t be long before the need to run catches me once more.
Monday, 27 July 2020
Monday, 13 April 2020
I had almost made it. My expedition was almost complete. I could almost smell the (fresh) air from the car park.
Saturday, 28 March 2020
We were excitable travellers as we reached Peartree Park. It was a tonic to our housebound, sedentary bones to stretch our legs (of vastly different lengths) and we revelled in every moment of fresh air, despite the whipping wind blowing across the common from the River Itchen. The sky was a cobalt blue canvass across which the gnarled fingers of the trees clawed upwards towards the warming rays.
A ribbon of daffodils ran alongside the church and we couldn't resist following the yellow petal road. My canine companion took joy in tramping through the long grass, savouring the scents and then adding his own flavour to the mix.
The big tourist sites loomed large: on one side the world famous Pear Tree Inn, offering a jukebox and crisps to all (a faint trace of stale lager and cheese and onion still lingered on the breeze). On the other side, the 400 year old Pear Tree church, seeping with history. Literally a location where God calls you one way whilst the devil offers you a seat at the bar. My furry friend and I could not be swayed either way and so continued our own journey. We had business to attend to.
Unexpectedly, we were treated to a glimpse of the natural wonders found in this part of the world. Being low to the ground, my travelling partner jumped first as the giant pigeon flapped towards him. Well, not really a giant, but quite big. The silver beauty waddled across the path to collect his treasure. A Penguin wrapper, I think. He must've felt a natural winged affinity with the shiny plastic. We watched in awe as he flew away, slightly lopsidedly, towards the trees.
Alas, there was no time to dawdle and bask in the glory of mother nature. My companion still had to find a suitable place to answer his own call of nature.
Taking the road back towards home, up the slope that's quite a struggle when your're a chihuahua, we passed a kitchen window. The window flooded us with a pulsing blast of jungle music. We must've been fortunate to be passing on a special occasion or at festival time as the music was loud as well as having some human accompaniment. In a mark of respect for the wishes and values of the local natives, we passed by without comment but with a slight rave in our step. When in Woolston...
On the other side of the road we were distracted by a beautiful vista. The spring blossoms were in full bloom and in the wind, they snowed down on us like confetti. They perfectly matched the transit van to complete the picture.
Our journey was almost at an end. But we had yet to fulfil our destiny. As we walked the final stretch along the suburban streets, I implored the tiny tyrant by my feet to comply. It was only as we reached the last corner, did he start to make the familiar movements. Beneath a vintage, cracked road name sign, he pivoted and twirled and found his spot. Upon a lush bed of dandelion weeds and ominous stinging nettles too close for comfort, he unloaded the package. We had completed the business of the journey.
I never thought I'd treasure the journey down the path that I've trodden countless times so much. Who knows when we'll get to walk these streets of Peartree once again?
Well, probably tomorrow morning as the dog walking schedule dictates.
But who knows what wondrous sights and delightful moments will await us. We are wayfarers wandering through our next adventure. With a trusty poo bag in hand.
Friday, 6 March 2020
In response I shrugged and thought about it (after at least the fourth time I'd been asked). Then I answered honestly that I was going for a wander; I was going to see stuff. What stuff, I wasn't sure, but I'd know when I saw it. This was the kind of day the word 'mooching' was invented for.
The week before an email had popped up informing me of cheap train tickets.
"Cheap, you say," my brain pondered, and the easy decision was made. I was off on a jaunt.
A jaunt is such a jaunty word. It leads you on a fun, yet not too ambitious adventure. I'm a fan of a mild adventure and this was everything that I look for in a mild adventure. I packed my sandwiches, shouldered my backpack and boarded the cheap train. My favourite type of train.
A good train journey is sometimes all I need for a good outing. Give me the window seat with the countryside dancing past and I don't even need to get off when I reach my stop.
But I did. I was ready to see Bath.
Well, I say ready, but I had no plans. I still didn't know why I chose Bath (apart from the cheap ticket offer), what I wanted to see in Bath, or any idea how I'd spend the next eight hours. It was exciting. I had a blank canvas of a day. I could go anywhere (within Bath); I could do anything. Yet I didn't want to do anything. I wanted to do as close to nothing as possible whilst still doing something. A mild adventure was on the cards.
And so as I arrived at Bath Spa train station, my blank canvas of day started to fill with colour. My feet would take me wherever I wandered. When I got back on the train later that night, I realised how quickly the day built up with tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of quiet joy that knitted together to create a beautiful day in a beautiful city.
Here, I unpick some of the threads that built the tapestry of my glorious free day dedicated to the joy of wandering.
- Bath Spa train station toilets are a Victorian art deco place of beauty. I wanted to take a photo of the white tiles, black iron fittings and green ferns, but cameras are generally frowned upon in public bathrooms. I didn't mind waiting in that toilet queue.
- Exiting the station to be met by two bright blue anorak-clad tourist shepherds. I must've been their easiest customer of the day. "Why yes, I would like a free map, thank you very much."
- A walk over the famous Pulteney Bridge where the thing that made me smile most was not the bridge (shocking for me), but this exquisitely adorned florist. The shapes, the colours, the framing and the sunlight made my heart soar high into the blue beyond.
- Sitting by said bridge to eat the first of my cake-based snacks and watching the dozens of tourists, even on a cold February morn, posing and taking pictures in joy.
- A crisp morning walk in the eye-watering sunshine to walk the length and depth of the impressive Royal Crescent.
- Finding the perfect window seat in a cafe for my next beverage to be accompanied by reading the local free paper and people watching.
- A shuffle through the Green Park Station market to admire the weird food stalls and expansive glass roof above.
- Marvelling at the sight of a gentleman sat drinking a mug of tea sat in a bathtub-sofa atop a converted lifeboat as it drifted down the canal.
- The cloud speckled blue sky being dissected by a grey yet rusting industrial bridge I came across on a walk along the canal.
- The nerdy excitement of visiting a new Picturehouse cinema and settling into a cosy seat for an afternoon feature.
- Finally discovering the joy of the Bath Bun. I stopped at Sally Lunn's famous eating house (what every house should aspire to) to pick up some of these soft, sweet bread pillows.
- Following the deafening pealing bells towards Bath Abbey as I left the cinema at dusk, only to find the biggest, brightest full moon over the imposing, honey-coloured Gothic structure.
- A quick stop in the grandest cinema bar I've ever set foot in to hunker down in a squidgy, cushion adorned armchair to continue my people watching over candlelight. The atmospheric Tivoli Cinema was like stepping into a gold-trimmed scene from The Great Gatsby.
Bath is a lively and history-laden city and I could've planned to take advantage of more of the tourist attractions. But I preferred my mooching method. It was only one day and it started as a day with no plans. In spite of having no plans, I packed a whole lot of something in. It's a wonder what you can find when you let yourself wander.
Sunday, 1 September 2019
I am a mover, a traveller, a can't-stay-still-er. I like to be DOING something. Most of the time anyway. Doing stuff: better than not doing stuff.
But I've found a magical place where I don't want to do anything. Or go anywhere. Or move.
To be honest, I'm annoyed at myself that I didn't think about it before. I love the look of them, I love everything that they represent, I love the nostalgia and the purity of them. Why haven't I thought about it before?
The place in question?
A beach hut.
The humble, British seaside beach hut along the golden sands of Bournemouth no less.
Fine, I lied a little; there was some travel involved. Early travel at that. I woke up super early (although the sleep was restless when it eventually came, much like on Christmas Eve) to take on the A31 before the traffic hit.
The beauty of the early start was that I was at the beach in time to ride my bike along the promenade before the 10 am curfew. Like a boss.
Then, the non-travel began.
I picked up the keys to my beach hut (which perfectly matched the colour of my bike - it was fate) and unlocked my destiny. Well, a wooden hut to call home until sunset.
I pulled out a deckchair and settled myself down. Sat on the prom, cup of tea and biscuits to hand, I started the task of doing nothing.
I listened to the sea.
I warmed under the sun's rays.
I smiled at everyone (and the gazillions of dogs) walking past.
I just smiled.
The best thing about travelling are the people you get to see. The people you meet along the journey or the people who you find at your destination. The beauty of the beach hut was that I got to see both these groups of people, but I didn't have to move to see them.
I'd sent an invitation to various people to join me at the hut during the day. Not everyone could come (which was fortuitous as the beach hut was not the TARDIS) but there was a steady flow of friends and family who came by throughout the day. I was there for the long haul, but I welcomed transient visitors, especially when they brought buckets and spades, tractors for digging, ice creams, chocolate supplies, satsumas and provided much needed coverage for when I went to the loo or for a swim (not simultaneously I hasten to add).
Then there were the people I met along the 'journey'. Although I didn't move anywhere, it was still possible to meet people: the arguing family two doors up who spread all the way along to my territory; the kindred football spirits who we talked to next door; the beach hut owner the other side who's been lucky enough to own it for almost twenty years and has the interior decked out like a junk shop; the fishermen I met by the bike racks who told me what they caught and how cold I could expect the sea to be (not too bad as it turns out).
And to add to this, there were the thousands of people I must've observed throughout the day from my deckchair shaped vantage point: the family of giant bubble blowers at the sea edge in the early morn; the diligent joggers getting it done before the crowds; the teenage gymnasts tumbling off the groynes onto the sand like superheroes; the toddlers straying into the paths of other walkers; everyone on the land train I had to wave to every single time they passed; the old couples strolling hand in hand; and not forgetting ALL THE DOGS!
It was a busy day and I saw so much considering I went nowhere.
After twelve hours being on the beach, I made a last sweep of the beach hut (they provide you with a broom and I've never enjoyed sweeping so much) and locked up for the night. The smile never left my face as I took the bike ride back along the prom. By that time I was a little chilly, tired and covered in sand. But I couldn't have been happier.
Next time I want to go somewhere that makes me happy, I'm going to go nowhere.